Saving Costa Rica’s wild cats along roadways

Araya-Gamboa is a coordinator for Panthera's Wild Cats Friendly Roads Project in Costa Rica. Panthera is a global organization dedicated to conserving the world's wild cats and their ecosystems.

Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. It is believed to be home to about half a million animal and plant species. It also has more than 600 kilometers (372 miles) of roads which, according to Panthera, is the highest density in Central America. All those thoroughfares are a threat to the country's wildlife. They cause fragmentation of their habitat and result in accidents between vehicles and animals. Over the past decade, 461 wild cats have been killed on roads in Costa Rica.

The project focuses on saving more wild cats by lowering the threats to their survival. The team track areas where roadkill often happens so that they can limit the issues by building underpasses and creating safe crossing spots for wildlife. Araya-Gamboa says, “Upon seeing injured or deceased wildlife, we either help them cross roadways safely or move the wildlife corpses from the road. Finding wild animals still alive and suffering is extremely difficult.”

For each animal they find, they note the species, the GPS location, and what kind of land use is next to the roadway, which they also photograph. 

More than 25 million kilometers of new roads are expected to be constructed around the world by 2050. About 90% of those roads will be built in nations with rich ecosystems and biodiversity. The roads project in Costa Rica could be used as a model for other places where highway growth affects wildlife.


Author: Sylvia Jacobs

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